Haunting of the Queen Mary: The True Story Behind The Haunted Ship

The ghostly journey that ‘Haunting of the Queen Mary,’ Gary Shore’s mystery horror film, takes the viewers on a frightful, gruesome journey that spans two timelines. In contemporary times, The Calders face an uncertain time aboard the tourist attraction ship RMS Queen Mary as they lose their son, Lukas, to something inexplicable and embark on a search for him over the course of a night. Meanwhile, in 1938, another family, The Ratch’s, fall victim to Queen Mary’s deep-held secrets, which take hold of David, compelling him on a deadly path as he drops bodies in his homicidal wake, including that of his wife, Gwen, and daughter Jackie. Across time, one eerie incident keeps these two families and their fates intertwined.

In the film, RMS Queen Mary is depicted as a historical relic and renowned ship with a rich past, having entertained numerous recognizable personalities like Alfred Hitchcock and Bob Hope. Given the significance allocated to the vessel, a natural curiosity is bound to take over viewers about the ship’s connection to real life.

The Queen Mary and Its Rich History

As a ghost tale, ‘Haunting of the Queen Mary’ is partially based on a true story in that the ship portrayed within the film is a real-life vessel with many inexplicable spooky stories tied to it. However, the specific events explored within the film, revolving around the Calders and the Ratchs, are works of fiction. Thus, writers Tom Vaughan and Stephen Oliver, alongside director Gary Shore, who also co-wrote the film, can be credited for the film’s storyline.

Yet, the base inspiration for Queen Mary and its haunted state of affairs stems from real life. RMS Queen Mary, constructed in Clydebank, Scotland, during the 1930s under financially scrutinized circumstances, has been a ship of luxury from the start. In its maiden voyage circa 1936, the vessel offered grand amenities like multiple dining areas, cocktail bars, swimming pools, squash court, and even a small hospital. Back in the day, Queen Mary marked the scrumptious and stylish era of transatlantic travel.

During this time of her history, the ship hosted many passengers, as many as 2.2 million, including famous faces like Bob Hope and Fred Astaire, as mentioned in the film, alongside political powers Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth. Nevertheless, when the time came, the ship left behind its luxurious life and became a wartime vessel in World War II, carrying about 810,000 military personnel. The aesthetic changes that the ship underwent at this time coined its infamous nickname “Grey Ghost” for its speed and repainted look.

As such, Queen Mary stands as a piece of history and has long held the fascination of many. Yet, even more intriguing is her recent past and ongoing present, wherein she exists as a tourist attraction hotel known for numerous reported ghost sightings.

The Queen Mary: A Haunted Ship

In 2008, Time Magazine published an article about the ten most haunted places. Calling back to the reported sightings of a lady in the white, kids by the pool, and sailors in engine rooms, all haunting the Queen Mary, Time named the ship sixth on its list.

Likewise, Bill Winberg, an archivist for the Queen Mary, commented on the bloodied history of the ship and said, “The count that I have, according to the ship’s logbooks, is 47 deaths on board since the Queen Mary was launched in 1936. The vast majority were from natural causes, heart attacks on board, things like that— except for Pedder, a young seaman crushed by a mechanical door during an emergency drill, and Stark, a senior second officer who died after drinking some gin that turned out to be cleaning fluid.”

Off-record, the ship has many more deaths to account for, particularly during its service as a wartime ship. Due to numerous technical complications, many soldiers lost their lives to heat prostration. “We know that during this period, there was a burial at sea every four hours,” added Winberg. “There also are stories of soldiers who would literally jump ship as the Queen Mary left New York, and who knows how many of these people drowned or made it to shore.”

Furthermore, there are stories that linger about a young girl in the empty swimming pool, seemingly the inspiration behind Jackie, who plays hide-and-seek with the guests at night. Stories run rampant about the girl and her ghostly companions who continue to haunt the ship. Thus, there’s no shortage of ghost stories to be found aboard the Queen Mary, which has now become a tourist attraction.

Over the years, many companies have tried to profit off this ship, including Disney, who attempted (and failed) to turn the ship and its infamous B340 room into a haunted mansion at sea. As it stands today, the vessel continues to capitalize on its allegedly other-worldly state.

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